Off to the wild, windy and wet West at Rosehill this week for an unseasonal heavy track. Just another variable to consider, I’d be looking to favour horses on speed, particularly early in the program.
Day 3 at Royal Ascot was highlighted by emotional wins for two of British racing’s beloved leading ladies.
The first was the victory of Estimate in the Ascot Gold Cup for Her Majesty The Queen.
Estimate had the perfect run in transit but still proved tough as teak as she bullocked her way into the clear to defeat the tenacious Simenon with the luckless Top Trip in third.
The smile on the Queen’s face as Estimate crossed the line should surely form the basis of advertising campaigns for ownership in years to come, for she is proof that whether you are a monarch or a mug, racehorse ownership is one of the most exciting games around.
Simenon is now likely to be seen in Melbourne, with trainer Willie Mullins keen to bring his Ascot specialist to Melbourne.
I doubt he’s the right type of horse for the race, but he is a stayer with a turn of foot so we’ll see how he goes.
I hope Mullins has better luck with Simenon than he did with Holy Orders, who he brought to Australia for the 2003 Melbourne Cup.
Holy Orders refused to gallop in preparation for the race, with Mullins struggling to get him fit enough to contest the race. He finished 16th to Makybe Diva.
The other great story of last night was the win of Riposte in the Ribblesdale Stakes for the late Sir Henry Cecil’s widow Jane.
Lady Cecil, who has taken a temporary licence, will aim for an even more emotional victory this evening with Disclaimer in the Queen’s Vase.
The victories of Riposte and our best bet Remote left us slightly ahead for the day, a lead on which we are hoping to capitalise today.
This is probably my least favourite of all five days, but nevertheless there are winners to be found. It’s almost guaranteed that at least one runner today will end up in Australia at some point in their career.
Albany Stakes – Group 3, 6f (a1200m), 2yo fillies
Another two year old race. Of all the races, we’ve been off the mark so far with the juvenile affairs, so I’d be very wary about having a wager here.
It looks a race in two between Sandiva and Joyeuse. I’m going to start with the latter first, Joyeuse.
Expect big money for her today, and not necessarily because of the ability she showed in her maiden either, although she was very good at Lingfield.
But she is the half sister, by Oasis Dream, to Frankel.
Pedigree is only one factor in racetrack ability. Frankel’s older brother Bullet Train became his pacemaker and will stand at stud in Victoria, while of his younger brothers, Noble Mission seems to be quirky while three year old Morpheus won a maiden just last week.
Still, that won’t stop punters flocking to her, hoping to see a female version of Frankel.
I think that will inflate the price about Sandiva, who should be favourite and on paper should just win.
Sandiva won a maiden at Nottingham by six lengths, before winning a Listed race at Naas by two lengths after settling ust behind the speed.
Given the form out of that race, I think she must go on top here, although I doubt anyone will begrudge a Joyeuse victory.
Next best, Godolphin’s Wedding Ring and Heart Focus, who finished second to Sandiva at Naas.
3. Wedding Ring
King Edward VII Stakes – Group 2, 1m 4f (a2400m), 3yo colts and geldings
This race tends to attract horses who are either just below Epsom Derby standard, or horses who are still on the up and are heading to bigger and better things.
Recent winners have included a Dubai World Cup winner in Monterosso and a King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner in Nathaniel.
It’s also been a race which seems to produce the right sort of horse for Australian conditions. Among the runners in recent years have been last year’s Melbourne Cup quinella Green Moon (fifth to Monterosso) and Fiorente (second to Nathaniel), as well as last year’s The Metropolitan winner Glencadam Gold (ninth to Nathaniel).
So this is probably a race to watch for a future Australian runner.
From the outset, it looks pretty clear that it is Epsom Derby fourth Battle of Marengo’s race to lose, and his current price reflects that.
However, Aidan O’Brien has failed to win this race with favourites before.
Last year, Astrology – coming off a third in the Epsom Derby – finished fourth behind Thomas Chippendale as an odds on favourite. This was the same as At First Sight, now with Lloyd Williams, who finished fourth as favourite to Monterosso after finishing second at Epsom.
They were different horses to Battle of Marengo though, in that both were free running gallopers who were suited to the Epsom track.
At First Sight proved slightly more versatile in Australia, running second in a Naturalism Stakes to December Draw coming from near last.
Battle of Marengo did lead at Epsom after halfway, but I think he is better coming from behind. His effort to hold on to fourth off a rather solid tempo looks strong enough to contend with this field.
If there is one to beat him, I think it may be Greatwood for Luxa Cumani.
He was abysmal in the Dante Stakes after starting second favourite, but he never looked comfortable at any stage and I think he’ll appreciate the step up in journey.
Next best are Contributer, second to Magician in the Chester Vase before another second (in a two horse affair) to Queen’s Vase fancy Disclaimer, and Sir Michael Stoute’s Hillstar.
1. Battle of Marengo
Coronation Stakes – Group 1, 1m (a1600m), 3yo fillies
Of all the Group 1 races across the festival, this is the one that interests me the least.
I find the form of British three year old fillies hard to follow, and I generally tend to avoid these races.
The Irish have been on fire this week, though, so I’m going to stick with another Irish filly – this time, the emerging Viztoria.
She is yet to race beyond 7f (a1400m), but she won a Group 3 at The Curragh over that trip very comfortably last month.
She looks the emerging filly who didn’t tackle the English or Irish 1000 Guineas, and I’m happy to stick with her.
Of course, English 1000 Guineas winner Sky Lantern and Irish 1000 Guineas winner Just The Judge (also second to Sky Lantern at Newmarket) have proven their worth at the top level and will have every chance to add another Group 1 to their pedigree page.
Next best, at odds, Purr Along, but this is a race I’m happy to watch.
2. Sky Lantern
3. Just The Judge
Wolferton Handicap – Listed, 1m 2f (a2000m), 4yo+
This race, for me, is more intriguing than the Coronation Stakes.
Two years ago, Lost In The Moment ran second in the Wolferton, a matter of months before he finished sixth to Dunaden in the Melbourne Cup.
Last year, subsequent Geelong Cup winner Gatewood beat Australian Derby runner up Retrieve.
It leads me to think we should keep an eye on this race for potential Melbourne gallopers.
Chapter Seven was thrown in the deep end last time out, finishing fourth in the Coronation Cup – a long, long way from St Nicholas Abbey, Dunaden and Joshua Tree.
Actually, he was only five lengths behind Joshua Tree, a globetrotter who has won a Canadian International and a Prix Kergorlay and who has tackled some of the world’s best gallopers.
Chapter Seven drops in class, drops in weight and looks well suited in a race like this. I’m happy to have him on top.
Godolphin’s Albasharah goes into second after an eight length win last time out in a Doncaster handicap. It’s hard to tell how good she might be.
Keep an eye on Mobaco, too. Another horse bought by OTI Racing for a Melbourne spring raid, he brings French form here.
He was disappointing first up in the Festival Stakes, but he drops back into something more suitable and he gets James McDonald aboard.
Next best Ocean War, first up since the 2011 Epsom Derby when he finished a long way behind Pour Moi as a 12/1 fancy, and Labarinto, who tends to mix his form.
1. Chapter Seven
Queen’s Vase (In Memory of Sir Henry Cecil) – Group 3, 2m (a3200m), 3yo
This race did produce a Gold Cup winner last year, with last night’s winner Estimate winning this race for the Queen by five lengths.
We’ve seen some emotional scenes this week, but nothing at all will compare if Disclaimer can win the Queen’s Vase, this year run in memory of the legendary Sir Henry Cecil who died last week after a long battle with cancer.
He comes here having won his last three, including the two horse race against Contributer, referred to earlier.
The stamina is some sort of query, as it is with most of these runners, but hard not to be cheering for him.
The fly in the ointment is Leading Light for Aidan O’Brien, a winner of a Group 3 at The Curragh over 1m 2f (a2000m) last time out. I think he may find the trip a bit far, but class should take him a long way here.
Next best for mine is Feel Like Dancing, who I’m looking forward to seeing over this trip, while Royal Skies was in my selections last night but was a late withdrawal from the King George V Stakes so must be considered here.
2. Leading Light
3. Feel Like Dancing
Buckingham Palace Stakes – Class 2 Handicap, 7f (a1400m), 3yo+
It’s the dartboard race for the day! A large field over 1400m thundering down the Ascot straight.
Once again, these are the races we’ve struggled to nail this week, so it’s not a race I’m going to devote too much time towards.
I think Baccarat looms as the horse to beat, given his only failure has come when he’s stepped up to a mile. Looks well in for this race and he’s my early fancy.
At odds, I really think Joe Packet is worth an each way ticket. I think he’s better over the 7f as opposed to the 6f (a1200m), and although he hasn’t won in ages, he did run Diamond Jubilee fancy Mince to two lengths here last October.
Down in the weights, he bares close watching.
Next best are Highland Colori, drawn on what appears to be the right side of the track and coming off a last start victory, and the horse at the bottom of the weights in Democretes.
Another tough race to finish the day!
2. Joe Packet
3. Highland Colori
Best of the day: Sandiva
Most interesting runner: Disclaimer (for sentiment) or Ocean War (for intrigue)
Horse to watch for the Melbourne spring: Mobaco